Visitors from Verdansk: How Apex gained viewers and players as Warzone struggled

Twitch viewers moved from Verdansk to World’s Edge this summer as frustrations with Warzone reached fever pitch.

Screengrab via Respawn Entertainment

Apex Legends lived in the shadow of Call of Duty: Warzone for more than a year. Immediately upon Warzone’s release in March 2020, it was four times more popular than Apex among Twitch viewers, and for the next year and beyond, Warzone continued to enjoy viewership numbers Apex simply couldn’t reach.

At the time, Apex was in a bit of a shambles. The coronavirus pandemic arrived just in time to squash the first LAN tournament of the game’s official pro circuit, the ALGS. The lure of Riot’s esports-ready VALORANT and the momentum of the new Warzone contributed to a pronounced lack of enthusiasm for the future of Apex.  

Warzone viewership thrived, and Verdansk celebrated 100 million players just a year after the game’s launch. It took Apex a bit more than two years to reach the same milestone.

But late this summer, as Warzone struggled with an onslaught of cheaters, Apex became a refuge for prominent Warzone streamers. Nicholas “NICKMERCS” Kolcheff, who has more than six million Twitch followers and usually broadcasts his gameplay to about 30,000 viewers, switched to Apex in late July. He began to stream ranked play on a near-daily basis, hardly touching Warzone through August and September—enough to significantly move the needle on the viewership numbers of both games. 

Of course, Kolcheff’s move didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was reflective of a broader shift in the battle royale landscape that began earlier this year. In March, Warzone maintained an average of 140,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch. By August, that number was almost cut in half, down to an average of just 75,000 viewers

As Warzone viewership cratered, Apex saw a huge increase. Apex had its own problems with cheaters at the time, which spurred a social media effort to raise awareness of the issue with the hashtag #SaveApexRanked. But the game had an incredible summer in spite of that, as other big Call of Duty streamers moved to Apex in search of greener pastures on World’s Edge. In July, Apex averaged 125,000 concurrent viewers, almost double its viewership from June, and settled at a healthy 91,000 in August. 

Timothy “TimTheTatman” Betar, who has over four million subscribers on YouTube, played throughout August. Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, a co-founder of 100 Thieves, jumped into the deep end of the pool with Apex by completing not one, but two different runs from Bronze to Masters rank—the second in solo queue, without any help from friendly Apex veterans. 

Jordan “HusKerrs” Thomas, a prominent Warzone pro who previously quit Apex for opportunities in Verdansk, dipped his toes back into Apex after more than a year away this summer. Jacob “chocoTaco” Throop, a streamer signed to TSM whose most-played games are PUBG and Warzone, is another battle royale stalwart playing a lot of Apex right now.

And these streamers are only the tip of the iceberg—plenty of Warzone players without huge audiences can also be seen on Apex now. 

There’s also an entirely different contingent of players known for spending time in Fortnite who are battling it out on World’s Edge these days, like Turner “Tfue” Tenney and Tyler “Ninja” Blevins—who has almost 17 million Twitch followers and is arguably the most famous gamer in the world.  

In the last couple of weeks, Apex has been plagued with server issues that left Respawn scrambling to patch the game. Last week, the game lost almost a quarter of its usual viewers. Those problems certainly brought turbulence to the upward flightpath of Apex popularity on Twitch. 

But despite the clear frustration expressed by the Apex community regarding the state of the game, its Twitch viewership has remained in a very healthy place. One disaster of a week left it the 10th most watched game on Twitch, a 10th of a percent behind Warzone. This weekend Apex returned to its usual strong numbers, averaging well over 100,000 viewers. Even if the influx of Warzone players to World’s Edge isn’t permanent, it’s unlikely to matter much in the long run. Apex is having an incredible year by any measure.